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INST 734
Information Retrieval Systems
Fall 2014 (online)
Course Description

Catalog Description

Principles of organizing and providing access to information using automated information storage and retrieval systems. Retrieval system models, index language selection, data structures, user interfaces and evaluation for text and multimedia applications.

Required Preparation

INST 734 satisfies the advanced technology course requirement for the MIM program. MIM students must have completed (or waived) INFM 603, and they must have either completed, waived, or be concurrently registered for INFM 605.

MLS students must have completed (or waived) LBSC 671, and must have completed, waived, or be concurrently registered for LBSC 602.

This course is not cross-listed in Computer Science, and it does not meet the Computer Science qualifying exam requirement. Computer Science students wishing to register for this course as an elective should contact the instructor.

Students enrolled in other programs (including iSchool Ph.D. students) should consult with the instructor to determine whether their academic preparation is appropriate for this course.



We will develop a general model for information retrieval systems in video lectures, and will then use readings and asynchronous online discussions to explore how that model can be used as a basis for understanding the design of information retrieval systems for a variety of applications. Homework assignments will be used to explore individual techniques in greater detail. Students will complete a term project in which they will solve a real information retrieval problem with the goal of developing a better understanding of implementation and evaluation issues.

Contact Information

Name Doug Oard
Email oard@umd.edu
Office HBK 2118F/AVW 3131
Office Phone (301)405-7590
Cell Phone See ELMS for the number
I will hold "cell phone office hours" from 5:00-5:30 on most weekdays -- no prior arrangement is needed to call me at those times to discuss material from the readings, homework assignments, the project, etc. My cell phone numnber (which is actually a Google Voice number) is posted on ELMS. I am also happy to talk by phone, Skype, or in person at other mutually convenient times; email is the best way to reach me to set up an appointment, and it is also a good way to get a quick answer to a simple question (although using the ELMS discussion board is better if you think the answer will also be of interest to other students). Just dropping by my office without an appointment is a low-payoff strategy for reaching me because I have offices in different buildings, and I spend more time in my lab (AVW 3126) than in either office. But if you do find me and I'm not already in a meeting, I would be happy to chat any time.

A schedule that summarizes what we will cover each week can be found on the course Web site.

Students wishing to discuss accommodations for unusual circumstances should contact me to discuss this before the end of the third module.

Course Materials

The course Web site at http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/~oard/teaching/734/fall14/ contains the most recent version of all material produced for this course. Among other things, this course description, links to the content of each of the 15 modules, the reading list, all assignments, and (when ready) the final exam can be found there. We will use ELMS only for things that can not be done on the open Web. Examples include submitting homework assignments and summaries of assigned readings and reading the summaries prepared by other students. Details of how we will use ELMS can be found on ELMS.

Textbook and other reading assignments for each week can be found on the schedule. The principal text for this course (referred to below as "MRS" for the authors' initials) is Christopher D. Manning, Prabhakar Raghavan and Heinrich Schütze, Introduction to Information Retrieval, which is available on the Web in HTML and PDF. If you get this on the Web, be sure you have the final version (dated April, 2009). This book is also available in print should you wish to order it by Amazon. It has not been ordered by the bookstore (to prevent unnecessary returns if you all get it from the Web!).

The course has a mailing list that will be used by the instructor to make announcements. Students will be initially added to the mailing list based on email addresses on file with the university. If you have not received a welcome message from the mailing list by August 18, please contact the instructor to make sure that your correct address is included.

Requirements for technology skills that students are expected to have mastered before taking the course and tools that students are expected to have available are described in the first module. All modules are available under the "Module Content" links on the Schedule page.


Course grades will be assigned based on homework, reading summaries, a term project, and a final examination. Scores on each component will be combined to produce a single overall score for each student as follows:
Component Portion of Grade
Homework 17.5% (5% each for best 3 of 4, 2.5% for lowest)
Reading summaries 12.5% (5% each for best 2 of 3, 2.5% for lowest)
Project 40%
Final Exam 30%

The homework assignments are designed to provide an opportunity for students to explore specific topics in a structured way. Students may work together on the homework assignments, but all of the material that is turned in for grading must be produced individually. For example, students may form study groups and work out homework solutions together on a chalkboard or by each working separately on different terminals and then sharing what they have learned, but it would not be permissible for one student to prepare an answer set and then for other students to copy those answers and submit it as their own work.

Reading summaries are designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore one topic in more depth, and they provide other students with greater breadth of exposure to the research literature than would otherwise be practical. Students are required to do one additional reading three times during the semester; assignments of readings to students will be made based on bids received during the first module, and the assigned student should submit a one-page summary of the key points from their assigned reading by midnight Thursday night of each module so that other students will be able to review those summaries before the end of each module.

A term project will be completed by the end of the semester. Students may work individually or in groups. Additional details are provided in the P4, P6, P8, P11, P13 and P14 assignments, which are available through the course Doug Oard Last modified: Sun Aug 17 21:30:30 2014